Natural Leather Dye

For all of the Talk that doesn't fit elsewhere.

Moderators: caedmon, Greg

User avatar
Cimrandir
Amrod Rhandir
Posts: 463
Joined: Thu Oct 07, 2010 2:44 am

Re: Natural Leather Dye

Post by Cimrandir »

Okay, this is a question that isn't directly related to Tolkien but I just got in a vegtan bag strap for my other hobby (Indiana Jones) and I figured that practice is practice so I'd ask here. The leather bag strap is undyed and will need to be dyed for regular use in my daily life. I have seen from other people accounts of modern leather dye bleeding into your shirt if it gets wet or sweaty. I'm interested in practicing for other Middle-Earth projects so I wanted to do a natural dye. What is the risk of dye bleeding and how would one mitigate it? I'm looking a nice deep rich brown so probably walnut?
Persona : Cimrandir - late 3rd Age Dunedain
User avatar
Elleth
êphal ki-*raznahê
Posts: 2478
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:26 am
Location: in the Angle; New England

Re: Natural Leather Dye

Post by Elleth »

The walnut dyed straps I've done shed a little color the first couple outings, but nothing bad: it's more powder residue and dubbin gook than dye, if that makes sense. I wouldn't wear it over a pretty white linen shift right off, but I've never noticed any permanent staining on my cloak or anything.
Persona: Aerlinneth, Dúnedain of Amon Lendel c. TA 3010.
User avatar
Manveruon
Thangailhir
Posts: 2369
Joined: Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:11 am
Location: Littleton, CO
Contact:

Re: Natural Leather Dye

Post by Manveruon »

I’ve also had a fair deal of trouble with dye transfer over the years, but I think I’ve come to a fairly workable solution at long last ( particularly If you’re not too concerned with natural materials). First, after applying the dye I buff the ever-loving HECK out of it to take off any excess dye on the surface. Sometimes I will do this with a slightly damp cloth as well. Then, after buffing, I apply a fairly heavy coat of Eco-Flo Satin Sheen (it’s wet and messy, but it should saturate the leather), and once that has mostly dried, buff again. Finally, I apply a fairly heavy layer of Fiebing’s Aussie Leather Conditioner over the top of it all (it’s basically a petroleum and beeswax based dubbin, but you could just as easily use an all-natural dubbin - it’s just a little harder to come by). This stuff is greasy and goopy, but I just slather it on, wait a while for it to really soak in, and then wipe the excess off. Finally, one last quick buffing, and it’s good to go. I have found that this creates a really beautiful weatherproof finish that isn’t SUPER glossy, but still looks nice and professional.
It’s not foolproof, and there will still be a BIT of transfer, particularly at first for the same basic reasons Elleth describes, but overall it has worked really really well for me so far.
User avatar
Elleth
êphal ki-*raznahê
Posts: 2478
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:26 am
Location: in the Angle; New England

Re: Natural Leather Dye

Post by Elleth »

Walp - I'm changing my mind on that purchased dye again. I like it again now. :mrgreen:

Most of the bad experience I was having was with "vegtan" goatskin (from loripel I think) and... the more I used that leather, the less convinced I was it was actually "vegtan." That or it had some weird finish coat. ANYHOW - on Hermann Oak vegtan, it works beautifully.

It's got a "dirtier" look to it than raw walnut + sun does - you can certainly see the iron in the mix.
Honestly, I kinda like it for Rangery projects.

Pics when everything's dried out and oiled up.
Persona: Aerlinneth, Dúnedain of Amon Lendel c. TA 3010.
User avatar
Manveruon
Thangailhir
Posts: 2369
Joined: Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:11 am
Location: Littleton, CO
Contact:

Re: Natural Leather Dye

Post by Manveruon »

I’m very interested to see the final results! Still kinda’ want to grab some of that dye for myself.
User avatar
Elleth
êphal ki-*raznahê
Posts: 2478
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:26 am
Location: in the Angle; New England

Re: Natural Leather Dye

Post by Elleth »

Okay!

I promised a further report on this stuff, so here it is.

Short version: It's got some quirks, but it's much easier to work with than straight walnut dye and if you like the look, it's fantastic.

The key with this stuff is that part of the magic is there's vinegaroon in the mix to darken it up, so it only really works on real vegtan. I've tried it on imported goat "vegtan" and the results were terrible. You need the real stuff. I know Hermann Oak works, I assume other brands do as well but I don't know what they are. So all I can recommend from experience is Hermann Oak.

NOW - here's how it looks on Hermann Oak calfskin. Right pieces ~1 application, left piece ~3-4 - then both treated with mink oil.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE the look. Once it's oiled, this is positively LUXURIOUS material to work with. I've got at least one belt pouch I absolutely HAVE to remake with this material, and maybe some other pieces as well.
merf-wallet-pieces.jpg
merf-wallet-pieces.jpg (80.87 KiB) Viewed 50 times
And here we see it on Iodo's pack: note how the dye still lets all the natural variations of the hide itself show through (even highlights them, actually). I quite like the look, but it certainly won't fit all contexts:
merf-iodo-pack.jpg
merf-iodo-pack.jpg (194.26 KiB) Viewed 50 times
And her purse: the color evens out a little with enough applications/darkness. There's still some mottling (which again, I like)
merf-iodo-pouch.jpg
merf-iodo-pouch.jpg (77.83 KiB) Viewed 50 times
The one catch: I think "in period" calfskin was a comparatively upper class material, so I don't know how well it works for more ragamuffin rangers or Bree-men. At some point I need to get a goat hide from Springfield Leather (thank you again Elwindil!) and see if their tanning is any better than the old rolipel hides I had.

Anyhow, here's where things get interesting. This is some straps I've got going. They're about ~3 applications in, no sunlight, all Hermann Oak straps (unoiled) -
merf-strap-unoiled.jpg
merf-strap-unoiled.jpg (191.81 KiB) Viewed 50 times
Note that kinda grainy/speckly appearance. I ASSUME what's going on is that perhaps there's some tiny tiny iron particulates in the dye that settle into the cracks.

Here's what that looks like after oiling:
merf-strap-oiled.jpg
merf-strap-oiled.jpg (187.08 KiB) Viewed 50 times

From top to bottom:

1. Hermann Oak vegtan + purchased walnut/vinegaroon dye, oiled. Early on I then did a wash of baking soda water to neutralize any remaining acid in my earlier attempts. (Iodo's pack straps are done this way). I have STOPPED this process since, as I felt it also washed too much of the color away. We'll see in a few years whether my darker straps start falling apart - I can't report yet on longevity.

2. Hermann Oak "drum dyed" commercial strap, just oiled. Meh. It's okay.

3. Hermann Oak vegtan + purchased walnut/vinegaroon dye, oiled. NOT washed. It's a little darker in person than under the camera lights. Again - we'll see how it holds up.

4. Plain walnut + sun, no oil yet.


Summary:

I really like the "rustic" look of this stuff on straps - within certain contexts. I think it absolutely works for more woodsy/rangery/frontier pieces - less so for "upper crust" applications of any sort. I do prefer the deep rich browns of just walnut+sun, but that's a much more season-limited, time consuming, and finiky process. I've one strap done that way that got *too* much sun in the suntanning process and while with enough oil is usable, it's never been quite the same since.

This stuff is much easier to work with, can be used any time of the year, and has an interesting look all of its own.

Within its limitations, I now really like it.
Persona: Aerlinneth, Dúnedain of Amon Lendel c. TA 3010.
User avatar
Iodo
Thangailhir
Posts: 1449
Joined: Mon Sep 25, 2017 5:58 pm
Location: North west england UK

Re: Natural Leather Dye

Post by Iodo »

This is so cool, thanks for the write up :P I did wonder how you did the leather color, it looks so good
Gimli: It's true you don't see many Dwarf-women. And in fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance, that they are often mistaken for Dwarf-men.
Aragorn: It's the beards.
Post Reply